SALT LAKE CITY — Sure, Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson had an absolutely monstrous 28-point, 26-rebound performance in Monday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks.
But if they were going to hand out a game ball following Utah's wild 123-121 triple-overtime victory, they'd have to cut it up into five equal parts.
While Jefferson's scoring and rebounding numbers were mighty impressive, the critical contributions of four of his teammates — Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll — could not and should not be overlooked.
Hayward had 24 points, Harris chipped in with 23 points plus seven assists, and Millsap added 16 points — including an eye-popping, follow-up dunk off Hayward's miss with 2.2 seconds remaining in regulation. Millsap's clutch basket, one of nine rebounds he had in the game, tied the game at 89 and sent this dandy duel into the first overtime.
And then there's Carroll. The 6-foot-8 forward, who signed with the Jazz in early February after injuries sidelined Josh Howard and Raja Bell indefinitely, scored 11 of his 15 points in the third quarter. That helped the Jazz surge to a nine-point lead entering the fourth period, only to see the Mavs stage a furious rally down the stretch.
Carroll also had six assists and four rebounds — none bigger than the one he grabbed off the offensive glass late in the third overtime period.
With Utah clinging to a 120-118 lead in the final minute, Jefferson put up a shot that missed, but Carroll hustled his way for the offensive rebound to help the Jazz retain possession.
That eventually led to a free throw by Millsap that gave Utah a 121-118 lead with 14.9 seconds remaining, and when the Dallas duo of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry each missed subsequent 3-point attempts with time running out, it was enough to give the Jazz a do-or-die victory — snapping a string of seven straight losses to the Mavs — and kept their pulse pounding in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Carroll, making his fifth start in a Jazz uniform, has averaged just over 13 minutes and four points per game since joining the Jazz.
But on Monday night, he played a whopping 441/2 minutes — more than three times what he's averaged — and yet, amazingly, those were the fewest minutes by any Utah starter.
Jefferson logged more than 54 minutes in this marathon win, and so did Hayward. Millsap spent 53 minutes on the court, and Harris was just a few seconds short of doing the same.
By contrast, the entire Jazz bench that saw action — five players in all — totaled just 56-plus minutes between them.
Fortunately for Utah's "Ironman Five," they'll get a day off today before resuming their last-gasp playoff push on Wednesday at Portland — their last road game of the season.